Rev. Emily C. Heath

Leaving a church and finding God's grace

Filed By Rev. Emily C. Heath | October 07, 2010 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: LGBT discrimination, presbyterian church, religion

In December of 2001, just a few months after my 25th birthday,symbol.gif I was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). My ordination was the end of a long process of discernment and formation that had begun a little over three years earlier when I entered seminary as an idealistic 21 year old who just so happened to be gay.

The official position of the Presbyterian Church is that gays and lesbians may be ordained as ministers, but they may not be sexually active. The denomination, like most Protestant churches, rejects the idea of clerical celibacy. Nevertheless it imposes it on its gay clergy. The irony has never been lost on me.

In seminary, given the contentious debate occurring over homosexuality in our denomination, I was counseled by many older gay and lesbian clergy members to not hide who I was, but to also not bring up the issue when I went before my ordination committee. I was told that I could do more good on the inside of the system than on the outside. I never lied about being gay, but I did learn what it was like to live in an ecclesiastical don't ask, don't tell situation.

Upon graduation I felt a very clear call to serve a congregation. Instead I spent my first seven years in ministry in chaplaincy and academia, more welcoming choices for gay and lesbian clergy. I was deeply unhappy. I knew that my true call was to a pulpit and that, while there were efforts to change the denomination's policies, that change was slow in coming.

The eventual end of my relationship with my denomination came when I realized that whenever a gay friend came to me looking for a church, I could not bring myself to suggest they join my denomination. As much as I loved the Presbyterian Church, I could not ask my friends to join an organization that imposed different standards on them than on their straight neighbors. Not long after I came to that realization, I began making my own plans to leave.

I was recently asked to serve as a pastor to a community in the United Church of Christ. With my acceptance of this position comes a transfer of my ministerial standing to the UCC, a denomination that welcomes and affirms gays and lesbians. I am thrilled. But, I will always love and miss the community that nurtured me in my young adulthood.

The Presbyterian Church is filled with good people who believe in justice. Still, even some straight supporters have thus far failed to prioritize equality. In some cases our allies have gone so far as to delay votes on gay inclusion in order to not alienate conservatives. To them I ask, what about the many gays and lesbians who have already been alienated by the church?

Martin Luther King once said, "In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." As I leave the Presbyterian Church I do not hold anger for those who believe homosexuality is wrong. They are entitled to their beliefs.

But I am deeply frustrated with those who believe that inclusion of gays and lesbians is right, but who tell us to wait for justice. Their lack of urgency comes from living in a privileged comfort that gay Presbyterians have never known. Like Dr. King said, I will remember their silence. And so will that idealistic 21 year old who entered seminary all those years ago.

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Approximately 10% of UCC congregations have adopted an official "open and affirming" statement welcoming gay and lesbian persons in all aspects of church life. 90% have not.

UCC has never issued a formal statement un-wronging homosexuality. The majority of UCC churches continue to teach that we are wrong. Welcome in a few churches, but still wrong.

Andrew, as I explained to you after you brought this up as an off topic response to my last post, the UCC does teach that LGBTQ individuals are indeed equally holy in the eyes of God and the church. It does not teach that homosexuality is wrong, as is obvious when you read the denomination's materials on everything from ordination to youth discussions of sexuality. I know my denomination and what we believe.

Here is just one example of where the denomination has affirmed LGBTQ people:

The file you attached from UCC says:

"Calls upon local churches, Associations and Conferences to adopt an Open and Affirming policy. (i.e. a non-discrimination policy and a covenant of openness and affirmation of persons of lesbian, gay and bisexual orientation within the community of faith. CF: Fifteenth General Synod, 1985.)

It's optional to be "Open and Affirming" and only about 10% of the UCC churches have accepted that designation and 90% have not. That's the truth.

UCC has never rejected the scriptures in Leviticus and they remain a traditional Christian belief untold the say otherwise.

More Light Presbyterians, a coalition of gay-inclusive congregations, was founded in 1980. Today the organization has 113 member churches or about 2%.

Welcoming and accepting is not the same as ending the teaching/belief. UCC, like other Christian denominations is wildly split on that issue.

JonathonEdwards | October 7, 2010 6:11 PM


I've read your flogging of this particular horse a number of times and in a number of places. Now sit down, shut up, and pay attention:

The United Church of Christ has not mechanism for enforcement. Our denomination is not structured hierarchically. We have four "settings" of the church that exist in mutually autonomous relationships with one another. The local congregation, Associations, Conferences, and General Synod. None of those settings is able to tell any of the others what to do. Period.

Our national church setting teaches clearly and unambigously that homosexuality is not wrong, that the bible doesn't condemn homosexual activity, that same sex marriage is holy, etc. etc. But it can only recommend that the other settings follow suit.

That may seem toothless to you, but its a very powerful reason for choosing this denomination. When you find a setting of the church that has "un-wronged" homosexuality, there is not threat that some council or biship is going to force you to change your mind.

It also means that when a setting of the church goes through the process to become Open and Affirming, you know that it means something. it wasn't just dictated from above.

Finally, to become officially open and affirming is a process that takes time and energy. It becomes the priority of the church while its being worked through. Not all churches have the energy or resources to walk through that process. I am an openly gay pastor serving a church that isn't "open and affirming", but homosexuality is "un-wronged" at my church. My Association and Conference are officially Open and Affirming.

So. In every setting of the UCC that I find myself - my local church, my Association, my Conference and in the national body - we have boldly proclaimed the "unwrongness" of homosexuality.

Yes. You will find UCC churches that are still teaching the "gays are bad" stuff. So I would tweak my colleagues statement a bit and say to a gay person looking for a church: "consider the UCC", listing all of the above reasons, "but shop around until you find a UCC church that is in the 21st century on these issues".

So, AndrewW, you can stop regurgitating this particular tired argument. You don't have enough information to make it and you should stop while you're ahead.

I'm a little confused Jonathon. What you're saying is essentially in agreement with what Andrew is saying, yet you're chiding him for bringing it up.

The author of this article implies (IMHO) that ALL UCC churches accept homosexuality as not being sinful. Andrew is simply pointing out that the majority of UCC member churches don't follow this "core teaching" of the denomination. The authors follow-up is keenly worded imply Andrew is wrong, when in fact his point is correct.

If I were to say those of Judaic faith do not eat pork or mix dairy and meat, I'm sure someone would correct me that some do indeed do those things. I can say it's a core value laid out in the Torah all I want, and those that practice Hasidic Judaism follow these core beliefs. But that doesn't change the fact that most followers of the Judaic faith don't follow that particular set of laws.

I agree with your statement that considering a UCC church, and verifying that it's accepted that portion of the conference is a great idea for gay people looking for a place of worship. But without Andrew mentioning this, most would have read the article to say "all UCC churches are affirming", when in fact the majority are not.

Woody, what I have made clear to Andrew in previous comments is that the denomination as a whole is fully accepting. Local church members may vary. Some churches are Open and Affirming and others are in process. The denomination has called on all churches to consider becoming ONA, though. That will happen gradually in different times and places as a congregation is able to do so.

What the other UCC pastor is responding to, I believe, I the fact that every time I've posted, regardless of the fact that the topic has not been the UCC, Andrew has made comments about the UCC, in his reading, sanctioning bigotry. I'm not sure where that tunnel vision comes from, but as a pastor in the denomination I can say that his assessment of us is incorrect.

Does the UCC still have work to do on UCC issues? Sure. But it has also done more than any other mainline denomination to affirm LGBT people, bless our relationships and advocate our civil rights. So, I take umbrage to the repeated, insistent assertion that my church is promoting bigotry.

" The UCC is fully accepting as a denomination. As the other pastor explained, local polity is a choice of local churches."

You don't see the fact that that statement is not true? You have confirmed the obvious, again. 90% of UCC is "Open and Affirming." So, it's rather disingenuous to suggest (repeatedly) that "UCC is fully accepting as a denomination." 10% of UCC is "fully accepting."

Plus, acceptance isn't enough. We don't need to be "accepted." Do you afford this special designation for straight people? I have paid to have the official doctrine of UCC (and many others) to be reviewed - there is NO formal statement rejecting the traditional teaching/belief that "homosexuality is wrong." It's not there. "Encouraging" individuals churches to "accept" us is not enough. UCC needs to reject the idea that we are wrong.

Should say 90% of UCC is NOT "open and affirming."

Thank-you for confirming that about 10% of the collection of UCC churches are "open and affirming." That means 90% are not.

I understand that UCC is probably the most progressive Christian denomination - at least in spirit. But, the location of UCC churches and that area's level of religiosity shapes that local church. It's easy to find ONA designated churches in Massachusetts, but virtually impossible in most Southern States. You know that.

I think Rev. Heath's statement was misleading. She could have said that UCC provides encouragement to its local churches to become "Open and Affirming" and so far about 10% have. Like I mentioned above, that's 10 times better than Presbyterians (if anyone is keeping score).

Andrew, there was nothing misleading about what I wrote. The UCC is fully accepting as a denomination. As the other pastor explained, local polity is a choice of local churches. So far, 10% of UCC churches have become ONA via the official process. Others are welcoming but haven't had the chance to go through the process yet. And, some Conferences, like my own, are also ONA.

As far as ONA churches in the South, being a Southerner myself I can tell you that it is quite easy to find ONA churches among the UCC there. In fact, some of our strongest ONA churches are in the South. However, sine the denomination has not been in the South historically, there aren't many Southern UCC congregations.

I'm curious why the UCC has become such a target for you? Neither of my columns have focused on the UCC. In fact, this one focused on a different denomination. You've been fixated on the UCC, though. Apparently this has been the case in other places as well. Why not applaud the fact that the UCC is making a very real difference for LGBT Christians and has stood up on a national level for what is right?

I am a retired prison chaplain from a fundamentalist background... When I transitioned from male to female came out as lesbian I was no longer welcome in the church where I was a member... I have found a home in a UCC Church in a very conservative area... None of the UCC Churches in our area are officially open and accepting but I can go to any of them without a problem... I really doubt there are that many UCC Churches that will not welcome LGBT folks.

From my experience the UCC really does share "God's Extravagant Welcome."

Last Fall UCC churches were sent an email asking about homosexuality - the majority said they considered it "wrong." That was part of research I paid for.

Let's cut the hype and stop exaggerating. Only 10% of UCC churches are "open and affirming," meaning your money is good here. This is a marketing ploy.

Find a reference where UCC has said they reject the words in Leviticus. They "encourage" and "welcome" and even "affirm" while 90% of their churches continue to teach that homosexuality is wrong. That doesn't deserve a prize. The courage to part with that traditional belief would.

The LGBT community is waiting.

Andrew, you simply do not understand the reality of the UCC. It is not true that 90% of UCC churches teach that homosexuality is wrong. We have showed you the statements. We have told you our experiences. We have explained the polity. You are not going to listen. The denomination as a whole is indeed supportive and affirming of LGBT people. I don't know why you are so adamant in saying it is not. It is certainly not a "marketing ploy" intended to get LGBTQ money. That's just downright offensive. Since we are not going to come to any agreement here, perhaps it would be best for you to take your arguments elsewhere.

What "statements?" You have shown us documents that "encourage" participation in a marketing effort called "open and affirming." You have not shown that UCC rejects the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is not wrong." It would be very simple to make that statement if we are to believe your representations.

Post the link to THAT statement. Opening and affirming doesn't cut it. Un-wrong us. Reject the scriptures in Leviticus. Part ways with that damaging teaching/belief. Until you do, you and UCC continue to sanction bigotry, bullying and the loss of innocent life.

Show us the formal statement from the denoimination that rejects that belief. You haven't done that yet. I am hoping you will.

Where is your proof that most UCC churches are anti-gay. You have asked for her proof. You are now being asked for your proof that a majority are anti-gay.

90% of UCC churches are not even "open and affirming." Nearly ALL of them. Only 10% "welcome" gays. It's pretty simply math, Tim.

PostMillenial | March 1, 2011 11:18 PM

Why ever would anyone wish to keep score? How does "keeping score" promote peace or grow the Kingdom here on earth? And how does picking at a scab promote healing?

Growth takes time. The wrongs of millenia are in the process of being overturned in a few score years. Considering God's time clock over recorded history, that's a remarkable pace.

Apparently at issue, Andrew, is your personal feelings of "being wronged". We all get that; heck, we've all felt that pain over something in our lives. Two (now three) ministers have acknowledged that; two of them have given you very reasonable responses to what amounts to the incessant poking of the elevator button.

Because that's what you're doing, emotionally. Pushing the button repeatedly, hoping that it will "make the elevator arrive faster." Unfortunately, growth in God, just like that elevator, won't arrive any faster than it is planned and designed. I can tell you that judicious "poking" is undoubtedly built into God's plan.

I think, though, that you're pressing the "hold" button, instead of the "up" button. You are abusing the good faith of your brothers and sisters in Christ by playing on this one sour chord over and over, rather than working to create the change you seek. I feel you think that you're creating the outcome; the problem is that you truly aren't helping.

So, evaluate your audience. Change your tune. Work for good.

Or become the troll that some think you are.

The glacial pace within my own Presbyterian church is hugely frustrating to me. I am determined to see its progress through to an affirming welcome imbued in its programs and celebrated in print. (It's already pretty clear in the pulpit.) Sometimes I feel like a little dog nipping at the heels of an elephant, but eventually that elephant has GOT to move. It has taken a couple of small steps.

AndrewW, I know you want the denomination to make declarations that apologize for and reverse its wrong teaching all these years. That day is coming, but I believe it won't be before civil equality.

Actually, the UCC has already done these things. I'm hopeful more churches will do so in the future.

Jesus Christ.

The document you linked says:

"Therefore, Be It Resolved, that the Fourteenth General Synod denounces institutionalized expressions of homophobia in all its forms, and calls upon all levels of the United Church of Christ to expose, to address, and in the light of the Gospel, to transform institutionalized homophobia eliminating its effects within the church."

There is nothing here about not TEACHING that homosexuality is wrong. There is nothing here about REJECTING those nasty scriptures in Leviticus. This statement denounces "homophobia" but says nothing of the Christian-bigoted belief that we are wrong. Nothing. Read it again.

I am glad you are happy with your Church, but please don't assume you can misrepresent the facts. UCC is very gay-friendly in 10% of their churches and i understand you are working to increase those numbers, but please don't make shit up. UCC still believes homosexuality is wrong, because they have NEVER said it wasn't. If you want to link to UCC documents, find that one.

Andrew, honestly, you can make your point without swearing or using abusive language. If your tone is going to be like this, I am not going to engage with you any further.

So, is that the excuse for NOT providing the formal statement from UCC? Children are being bullied. Children are dying. We are NOT equal. And, "profanity" bothers you Reverend?

Jesus Christ, really?

Andrew, you're not going to teach me any words I don't already know. That's not the point. The point is that while you are talking about bullying, which has to do with the lack of civility and respect for the other, you yourself are behaving in a manner that is uncivil and which does not respect others. So, no, if you swear at me I am not going to engage with you any further. People have been more than civil to you and you have chosen to resort to swearing at them. You lose the right someone's time and attention when you do that.

Oh, for God's sake, children are dying. It is an important conversation. You have suggested that UCC is no longer teaching that homosexuality is wrong. I have provided proof that that statement is a lie.

Provide the proof. As we type another teen is contemplating suicide because Christians have devalued their life as an LGBT person. Profanity and civility are not sufficient excuses. Post the link to the UCC document that confirms what you have said.

We want to believe those that wrap themselves in the rile of "reverend," we really do. This is an opportunity to give us all some more faith - not in UCC, but in you. Bring it.


The day Christians stand up for equality will lead to civil equality. It requires that Christians confront their denominations and put our equality before traditional Christian beliefs. They need to un-wrong homosexuality. Now.

I am perplexed at why anyone would want to stay in an institution that DOESN'T recognize us as equal and continues to teach that we are wrong. The last week has been incredibly painful because of the loss of innocent life. Doesn't that inspire gay-Christians to say "enough is enough" and demand their brand of Christianity stop the teaching of bigotry and the sanctioning of bullying? Isn't that innocent loss of life enough to inspire some real courage?

May I point out that Emily didn't stay? She eloquently states her reasons for doing so. But it came at great cost to leave. Many choose to stay for their own reasons.

Let's look at your oft-repeated exhortation to demand the change of doctrine. Impassioned cries of injustice serve to inflame the zeal and energy of those who already agree with you. They will not change the hearts of those who do not agree. Those people who can be swayed need to feel respected and heard so that they will listen. Calm, well-reasoned and respectful discourse reaches the most people. After the rallying cries, reason must prevail.

Everyone who reads this blog is heartbroken over those children and the many more who were not publicized. We are motivated to make change. You have your ideas about how this can be done, but please acknowledge that there is more than one way to deal with this, and we must look at all of them. To intimate that disagreement with you is tantamount to callous disregard of those children's lives and terrible deaths is unconscionable.

You have taken over this thread so that many are addressing your topic instead of Emily's. That is unfair to her, although she's holding up just fine. Kindly respect her position and allow others to contribute to her thoughts.

I agree Betty. Emily left and that took courage. If more people took a stand, maybe these denominations would get the message and hasten their split. I wish UCC evolved enough to un-wrong us. In fact, I wish one Christian group would take that huge step and be a real "home" for gay Christians.

In order to save lives that has to happen now, not over the course of decades. My request is not much different than Julian Bond's who suggested that young black men "stand up" in their churches and come out.

This is an issue we have to address as a community and it is best handled by those who are LGBT and who have faith. None of us should tolerate or sit in the presence of bigotry - we should take a stand.

I'm glad the UCC church is out there. In my experience with churches they are far more accepting than a lot of denominations and seem to be fairly consistent from church to church. It's good to have a church that actually wants to talk about the words and teachings of Jesus. Not everyone wants to go to a Unitarian Universalist Church, so it is nice to have a christian alternative to "Lets all hug and not talk about Jesus."

Sure every community has a crazy attention whore or two, or someone who don't like gays/people with brown skin/jews/muslims/etc. but we love them despite their shortcomings of character.

Don't settle for "acceptance" Mark. There si nothing wrong with you that you need to be singled out for "special acceptance." UCC doesn't have to make a big deal out of accepting "straight" people. They are making you lesser by tolerating you.

Ask UCC to provide a statement that clearly states there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. When they do that, they don't have to make drama by "accepting" you - you will be just as equal as everyone else.

My use of "acceptance" Second Definition:

I'm fairly sure that should clarify what I was saying but just in case I'm not being clear let me spell it out.

My church has always loved and affirmed me first and foremost as a child of God. I have never felt on any level that I was being dealt with unfairly with the UCC church, I've never been denied any sacrament or service the church provides. I have had the opportunity to minister as a lay person and do good works. Who do you think you are to denounce my church?

"Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked man by being a malicious witness." Exodus 23:1-3

I wonder, what's it like under your bridge?

The second definition of "Acceptance" states:

"favorable reception; approval; favor"

That's my point exactly, in 10% of UCC churches you are give a "favorable reception" and "welcomed." That's not the same as a formal denial of the traditional Christian "lie" that we are lesser. Until a denomination rejects that teaching/belief it is still there. Indeed, at 90% of UCC churches it is still being taught.

We don't need any "acceptance" because there is nothing wrong with us. Straight people don't have a special (optional) program at UCC that "affirms" them because they're not "different," we are, right?

@ Andrew .... Listen big boy, I just spent a glorious afternoon having raucous sex with a born again Christian I am not married to. Your perspective on the peace of God not only bores me but I find it insipid, unenlightened and rather colloquial. I really don't want to insult you but your positions on the relationship between mankind and God seem to me to be atheistically biased. Now tell me... exactly when do you intend to release those colossal studies about how best to go about attaining equality?


I have no problem with anyone's relationship with god or your raucous sex with a born again Christian out of wedlock. If you screamed "oh my God" at the appropriate time, I can understand that.

I'm not an atheist. Stop playing that card. I just know that 5 young teens have recently taken their lives because they so no other way out. They were demeaned, devalued and damaged by something that lead them to take their own lives - something I cannot even imagine. We should all be asking why this happened. The national media has been asking. Soccer moms have been asking. Parents have been asking.

It is painfully clear that religion's (and here in the US primarily Christian) teachings and beliefs have contributed to these deaths. By making homosexuals "lesser" human beings religion sanctions the bigotry, bullying and innocent loss of life. That must stop. I can't imagine how that would "bore" anyone.

Brunch? Are you bringing the born-again fellow? Should brunch be at a hotel?

Please we know his "study" is just a figment of his imagination. It's actually ironic and amusing that he demands proof from others on here but when pressed on his plan on studies for as long as I have seen his posts we see absolutely nothing. Andrew put up or shut up. If you are going to demand proof from others you need to do the same.

When it is ready and the campaigns are fully developed it will be shared with the community. Until then, I am trying to get the LGBT community to embrace accountability. It is important.

Take a stand Andrew. I have heard your refrain about this study for way too long without you even providing so much as an estimate on its completion date. That is so like the Christians who sit in the pews biding their time while you demand definitive and immediate action. You demand specificity while offering equivocation. Set a date and if it slips then reset it.

Actually the story he was giving on other sites was it was all too complicated and we wouldn't get it. Now the story is when it's completed. Wow you are taking an awful long time on the study. Then you have the nerve to demand proof from others. What a hypocrite.

That's just plain lying Tim - I've always said it was "simple." I've spent more than a half million on State polling and the development of several campaigns. There is a lot involved and it will be launched when it is 1) ready and 2) when the community understands the absolute necessity to embrace "accountability." Both are proceeding nicely. Thanks for the encouragement.

And again I call you a hypocrite and a liar. In fact to be honest I think you are a psycho. You have been talking about this study for years without the slightest bit of proof that it exists. You make a claim here about a survey you did with UCC churches yet show no proof. And then you chide other people for not showing proof. You hide behind a screen name while others have given their full names and creditinals. I have noticed you no longer post on sites you used to my guess is they banned you for your BS. I don't anyone believes your study exists. You refuse to so any proof even though you insist of it from others.

I don't know why it is so confusing for you Tim. One year ago I organized a series of meetings because the LGBT community, Gay Inc. and activists didn't have a strategy. I sought ideas and funded several efforts. I never referred to anything called a "study." A lot of research has been done during the last 9 months, including contact with Christian denominations and individual churches.

It is not my intention to "study" anything, but all the research has been done to understand all the dynamics and prepare the strategy to WIN. It includes a lot of math and does provide the path to victory. That has lead to the design and creation of a number of specific campaigns. It's coming together.

Regarding UCC - if you can't tell the difference between 10% and a "vast, vast majority" we are in more trouble than I thought.

I have had two main points in the last year: we don't have a strategy and we need to embrace accountability. It seems you and others on this thread - even when given the fact (including math from UCC's website) - refuse to hold someone accountable for gross exaggeration. That's a problem. It seems some people in our community put their "faith" before our equality. I understand that, but it is troubling and perhaps (using your words) "hypocritical."

Rick Elliott | October 8, 2010 2:19 AM

I'd served Presbyterian congregations for 13 years when I finally had to acknowledge that I'm gay. I'm a late bloomer. Protracted physical ands sexual abuse had screwed up the normal development I would have gone through. Though it was quite fun to act out teenage things in my late 30s. However, the bifurcation experience of leading a double life weighed on me harder and harder. My aha moment came when a parishioner got mad about me for a funeral and stood up during "Announcements and for 10 minutes or so, ranted about me in the 3rd person. I was devastated! Months later when it seemed little pastoral work would be done for me by church members, I got thinking and decided to quit early. Luckily I was granted disability and had a meager salary to live on. My Dad agreed to back me if I ran short of funds. But his help wasn't needed. years later I decided to out myself as part of the gay ordination debate. To put a face with obvious skills as one who'd be disbarred if I chose to find a life mate.
I hope it passes this time, so I can get back in good graces again. The hurtful part is how people look through me as though the didn't see me. I loved the camaraderie at a presbytery meeting, but now I'm a pariah. Even allies don't pay much attention. I get the feeling the whole presbytery wished I would disappear. In November my retirement ritual will take place on the floor of a presbytery meeting. I'll be given a chance to say a few words. Most of I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to say that has meaning for folks. I'm open to [email protected] Say a prayer that the intent and meaning can be found and effectively.

I so much wish the Pres church hadn't lost that idealistic 21 year-old.
I was raised in the Pres church and loved it until I realized it will never accept me as I am. After years of 'church shopping', I finally just gave up on finding a church that held to the true teachings of Christ. To be honest, I still resent the years of being fed a distorted view of God's word as regards to gay people.

Okay Andrew - knock it off. You've hijacked the thread at this point.

Thanks for trying, Bil. It seems the guy won't even listen to you. Some folks always have to have their voice heard above everyone else's.

Although I am an atheist myself I applaud you for trying to win hearts and minds in your church. My brother is a member of a conservative congregation of Presbyterian Church (USA). Since he has become a member(before he was not religious) he has become anti-gay to the point that I have cut him out of my life. To me it further drives the point home to me that much of religion is anti-gay. It good to see a few that aren't.

the_czarina the_czarina | October 8, 2010 11:14 AM

I'm only a Str8 Ally, though a very involved and committed one, and I am also a lifelong atheist.

The contortions - the near torture - I see people puttng themselves through because they happened to have been born to families who identified as Christian, is painful to watch.

It appears to me that the immense amount of energy and soul-searching wasted just needed to climb out of the original hole dug by being brainwashed as an innocent child that one is 'less than' or 'sinful' is both tragic and ridiculous.
And that's just the beginning, isn't it?

The fact is: you are as good as me, and I am as good as you. No one should ever be taught otherwise because it is a lie.

Of course you know this now; and I'm sure there are some people who, as children, had enough innate self-esteem and inner resources to figure this out even as they were being inculcated otherwise. But most children aren't strong enough or developed enough. I'm sure I wouldn't have been, if I had the misfortune of being brought up in a judgmental Christian sect.

I will never understand how hard people will work to stay within belief systems that not only have done so much damage throughout history, but devalue an entire subset of normal human beings for the hateful and completely arbitrary lies written by the winners of conflicts (the losers don't get to tell their tales) among bronze age societies.

@ Andrew -- don't you think it unlikely the Bible will be rewritten to modify Leviticus and the clobber verses such as Romans chapter 1? Therefore is it not the interpretations of the passage meanings that becomes paramount? Here is a link that might interest you. -->

Well, Deena many Christians have gotten over that "slavery" thing and have made a lot of progress regarding the treatment of women. Are we next? That's up to you and your fellow Christians.

Interpretation of scripture is folly. At least most Jews have it right by admitting Leviticus was written for a "different time." I don't see any reason why Christians can grow up, too.

Andrew you should be held accountable. Set a date for the release of your study and research. Show also the documentation that you have spent half a million. Your words ring hollow without proof and accountability.

Rev. Emily, please do not engage AndrewW anymore for your own sake and since he is being abusive and a bully himself even though he cries out about bullying. His mission seems to be to be negative and arguementative while demanding accountability. What I want it for him to be accountable for his many claims about studies, money spent or donated and so on. He is indeed asking for what he cannot or will not give.

Bullying? It's about being honest and objective Rann. It is about channeling our collective efforts into a winning strategy.

If you want to accuse me of "bullying" it means you don't understand accountability.

If I have made any mis-statements, please show me them.

Good advice, Rann, and my intentions indeed. Personally, I find it ironic that one who demands accountability from the entire LGBTQ community then goes on sites, hijacks threads, and uses abusive language all without revealing his full name. It's easy to act in an uncivilized manner when you are remaining hidden behind a screen name.

I introduced "math" to determine if your statements were true. That IS accountability. I haven't insulted anyone or used any "abusive" language. I also provided evidence.

You can maintain your assertion if you want, but I think the truth is clear at this point.

@ Andrew -- we want to hold you accountable. Set a date for the release of your study and research.

Deal. I will launch within 60 days of the LGBT Community embracing accountability. I think that will be sometime after the mid-terms. It would put the launch somewhere around the end of the year or early next year.

Unlike a few other groups, I won't invest in something I cannot win and I would never do anything half-ass. The time is coming.

That is not a date Andrew. Do you think me a fool? Pick a date on the calendar like say November 23, 2010. Tell you what, you set a specific date and I will meet you 7 days after that date for brunch in Orlando at a hotel. If that won't work for you then we could do Tampa or Miami or negotiate some other spot. I'd enjoy socializing with you.

The current Plan is to launch early next year. Let's say February 1st. But, I am going to continue to insist that the LGBT community embrace accountability. If we can't be more serious about how we spend our time, money and effort we will continue to fail.

I have approached this the same way I do in business Deena, I don't make bad investments. It is my sense that our community is beginning to change and they are being more honest about our organizations, tactics and strategies.


From an objective third party:

"United Church of Christ

The United Church of Christ is a denomination organized according to congregational principles, hence views on most controversial matters vary among congregations. A substantial minority of UCC congregations have adopted an "open and affirming" (ONA) statement welcoming homosexuals to become members and participate in all aspects of church life as equals. A few congregations explicitly oppose homosexual practice through a "faithful and welcoming" stance, and many have no official policy at all. In July, 2005, the 25th General Synod encouraged congregations to adopt wedding policies that do not discriminate based on the gender of the couple, and to support legislation permitting homosexual marriage. This caused substantial controversy within many congregations."


My point has simply been we need to be honest and objective and tell the truth about "gay-friendly" denominations. 10% of UCC churches are gay-friendly. That's progress, but it doesn't make UCC gay-friendly, 90% apparently isn't.

David Brian Holt | October 8, 2010 8:38 PM

After reading your posts on this thread, Andrew, I just really have to laugh. You obviously have no experience with the UCC. The majority of UCC ministers I have met are LGBT. The largest gay church in the country, Cathedral of Hope, is UCC. The UCC ordained LGBT ministers before the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM as a mental disorder. In fact, in many ways, the UCC has been a more consistent ally to the LGBT Civil Rights Movement than the HRC. :)

Several UCC members have tried (in vain) to explain to you the uniqueness of UCC polity. Apparently, it has been totally lost of you. That 10% of UCC congregations are "Open and Affirming" is really meaningless (no offense to the UCC Coalition). The VAST, VAST majority of UCC congregations fully accept marriage equality and strongly advocate for gay rights. As it was pointed out earlier, even in conservative areas in the South, the UCC is often the only refuge for LGBT people to find a spiritual home. Functionally, they are as progressive as the Unitarian-Universalist Association (which is our sister denomination). It should be pointed out that the number of Unitarian congregations which have signed on to a "Open and Affirming" program is roughly equivalent to the UCC (about 10% of congregations). As it was explained, this process is long and arduous and some congregations just don't feel its necessary as their members and community are already aware of their gay rights advocacy.

In my small town, the UCC congregations are the largest contingent in our gay pride parade. My UCC minister is openly lesbian as was the one who preceded her. We've had over 300 same-sex weddings in our sanctuary.

Have you even looked at the national UCC website? It is replete with LGBT advocacy and resources. The UCC has filed numerous amicus briefs all over the country fighting for gay rights and marriage equality. It filed briefs in the recent Prop. 8 case.

When you attack your allies like this, it is really counterproductive.

Well, let's start with simply being honest David.

Reverend Emily said:

"With my acceptance of this position comes a transfer of my ministerial standing to the UCC, a denomination that welcomes and affirms gays and lesbians."

The truth is 10% of UCC "welcomes and affirms." Are you really disputing the math? 90% has not adopted the "open and affirming" designation. THOSE are the FACTS.

I can understand why you would be promoting UCC different from the facts because I have a great appreciation for marketing. I get it. But, I have a greater appreciation for the truth.

I didn't attack any "allies," I simply pointed out the lie/exaggeration of the statement attributed to the denomination known as UCC. I did that because children are dying. I did that because not a single Christian denomination has ever formally rejected the idea/teaching/belief that homosexuality is wrong. UCC has NOT done that.

I am very familiar with the UCC website and I have paid for research that was directed to all the major "Christian" denominations regarding homosexuality. Emails inquiring about their specific beliefs regarding homosexuality were sent to 100 churches of each major denomination. In the case of UCC specifically 74 churches (out of 100) responded and 64 of them confirmed their teaching/belief that homosexuality was "wrong." While this result was better than Baptist responses, it certainly didn't project UCC as "open and affirming."

I am not interested in your "impression" of UCC, I am only interested in the facts. UCC didn't score very well.

At the heart of this conversation (and it is an important one) is whether or not a Christian denomination rejects the traditional Christian belief that homosexuality is wrong. UCC has NOT done that - they have "welcomed" us in 10% of their churches. They need to reject the idea/belief that we are wrong. That belief is what is killing our youth and contributing to our continued discrimination. It must stop. It doesn't stop by hanging rainbow flags and welcoming us - it stops by un-wronging us.

Please let us know how that request is received. Ask UCC to issue a formal statement on behalf of the denomination that rejects the idea/teaching that we are wrong. Ask them.

Aren't you even a little surprised they haven't done that yet? Do you know why they haven't? I do. But, you should probably discover that on your own.

" That [only] 10% of UCC congregations are "Open and Affirming" is really meaningless (no offense to the UCC Coalition). The VAST, VAST majority of UCC congregations fully accept marriage equality and strongly advocate for gay rights."

Please explain. What exactly is the "VAST, VAST majority" if only 10% simply "welcome" us. I suppose there is some reference on the UCC website confirming your crazy assertion. Please provide the link.


David Brian Holt | October 9, 2010 2:18 PM


You're confusing being "Open and Affirming" with being open to LGBT members and denouncing homophobia. The two are not the same. While only 10% of congregations have signed onto this program the vast majority of congregations are functionally opposed to homophobia. As others have already pointed out, there are many, many congregations which are not "Open and Affirming" but have LGBT pastors. Care to explain that?

And yes, the church as a whole has denounced homophobia repeatedly. The national church proclaimed its full support of marriage equality back in 1995. That was simply to reiterate what many UCC congregations were already doing. I know a number of UCC congregations which are not signed onto the ONA program that perform same-sex weddings and have LGBT pastors.

Regarding UCC congregations which are actually homophobic, yes there are some mostly in the South. There is a program called "Faithful and Welcoming" that rejects marriage equality which about 120 congregations have signed onto. There are about 5000 UCC congregations so this number is very small. Additionally, many of these 120 congregations are in the process of leaving the denomination because they recognize their homophobia isn't welcomed in the larger church.

The UCC seminary here on the West Coast, the Pacific School of Religion, has about 300 seminary students. Of those, roughly 40% are LGBT. That doesn't really sound like a denomination that endorses homophobia. I know a few transgender people who are in seminary right now and are being supported by a scholarship from the church for transgender students. Again, this doesn't sound like the actions of a homophobic church. The church's insurance plan for pastors includes coverage for gender reassignment surgery. I don't think even the Unitarians have that included in their insurance plan.

Frankly, I find this criticism of the UCC to be rather humorous. Usually the church is criticized for focusing too heavily on LGBT issues at the expense of others.

"Please let us know how that request is received. Ask UCC to issue a formal statement on behalf of the denomination that rejects the idea/teaching that we are wrong. Ask them."

Here you go:

You'll see these statements on behalf of LGBT equality date back to 1969. :)

You can continue to spin it whatever way you want, but until a denomination specifically rejects the traditional Christian teaching/belief that homosexuality is "wrong," it stands. Welcoming, affirming and even employing homosexuals doesn't change that. Rejecting it, does.

I've read all the statements made by UCC and not a single one rejects the belief that homosexuality is wrong. If you have so much confidence in their position have them make a simple declaration that "homosexuality is not wrong,sinful or deviant." Seven simple words that you claim they are willing to confirm - ask them.

I have already acknowledged that UCC is probably the most progressive Christian denomination and they are "accepting" of LGBT persons. That's nice, but it doesn't officially un-wrong us. I suspect UCC welcomes everyone. We don't need to be welcomed. We need a denomination to say, as Christians, we got it wrong and we believe homosexuality is NOT wrong. That would take courage - rainbow flags do not.

I appreciate your best guesses about the makeup of gay-friendly churches within UCC, but the 10% that are ONA is the published success rate. Maybe UCC should have an additional designation of "accepting" - kinda halfway between ONA and "Faithful and welcoming."

This conversation is important and a large part of the national conversation about the young gay teens we've lost to bullying and suicide. When a gay-Christian sits within a church that demeans or devalues gay people they are in the presence of bullying. Not standing up to that bullying gives it quiet approval. Of the 300,000 churches in the US only 1% are "gay-friendly," about 3,000 churches. There are 10 million gay Christians in the US. Apparently about 8.5 million of them are sitting in the presence of bullying and the religious-devaluing of LGBT persons. Maybe UCC is doing better than many. I think they'd do even better if the simply rejected the traditional teaching/belief that homosexuality is wrong. Maybe if enough members courageously demanded that, it would happen. That would be a very powerful signal to Christians everywhere. It would also save lives - young innocent lives.

Andrew I haven't seen any denomination come out and say adultery is not a sin. Likewise eating shellfish and not being a virgin on your wedding night. I could give you many more examples. I think you are just a shade ignorant of how change occurs in theology. Churches very seldom issue declarations of "oops we got it wrong". Once in a while like the Catholic Pope retracting the ex-communication of Galileo there is an official statement of "Oops" but typically hundreds of years afterward such as the Galileo case. The modus operandi is to simply change without official proclamation. Maybe that doesn't please you. Sorry but the world was not made to please you. Perhaps you should join a church, attend consistently and advocate for the way you think it ought to happen. I'll be glad to go with you and voice support. Just remember like Franklin said .... any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most do.

Adultery is a "choice" Denna, homosexuality is not.

Many Christian denominations DID admit to getting it wrong on slavery. Christians can grow up and un-wrong us.

Andrew you are delightfully funny. In a way your antics remind me of Phelps. You should start a church.

I prefer brunch. Maybe brunch with "unanswered questions." That would be fun, maybe enlightening.

Oh I'm sure it would be enlightening for both of us. I'll let you order so I can enjoy the surprise. Here's a nice place with good ambiance.

David Brian Holt | October 9, 2010 5:31 PM

I'm sorry, but that still doesn't make any sense to me. What do you expect from the UCC that they aren't already doing? When they endorsed marriage equality it was voted on by delegates from congregations all over the country. Of these delegates, 97% supported the resolution. That's pretty overwhelming. In fact, it's probably a higher percentage of marriage equality supporters than even within the LGBT community itself. :)

And what type of "rejection" of "traditional" teachings are you wanting? The UCC has really never taken a literal interpretation of scripture. They recognize it to be the writings of Bronze Age slaveowners seeped in misogyny and homophobia. We really don't need to "reject" the interpretation of scripture offered by fundamentalism because we've never subscribed to it or been associated with it. People familiar with the UCC know this already. :)

"I've read all the statements made by UCC and not a single one rejects the belief that homosexuality is wrong."

Huh? Did you read those resolutions? When a church ordains LGBT people, performs same-sex weddings, advocates for gay rights, fights homophobia, and creates social services for the LGBT community that is a pretty convincing statement that they don't believe homosexuality to be wrong. As I stated before, my UCC minister is LGBT, as is our conference minister. Additionally, many members of the national staff are LGBT. Gay relationships are celebrated in our church and LGBT families are fully integrated members in our congregations.

Many "gay" churches, such as congregations within the MCC, are joining the UCC or are in the process of joining. The country's largest gay church is UCC. In San Francisco, the UCC runs a soup kitchen and pharmacy for HIV patients. They even have a transgender gospel choir. :)

As a said previously, the UCC is functionally equivalent to the Unitarians in terms of politics and social policies. Most UCC congregations have difficulty working with "traditional" Christian churches as they consider us to be too progressive. Frequently, UCC congregations can only work with local Unitarians and Reform Synagogues on service projects and joint ministries. I think if you spoke with an average member of the UCC they would be very perplexed indeed to be accused of accepting homophobia or adhering to a literal interpretation of scripture.

This month, my UCC congregation (along with many other UCC congregations) will be making a financial contribution to the Trevor Project and other services for gay teens. What are you doing to help?

Again, you're expressing your opinion and intentionally mis-leading people. UCC has lost 300,000 members in the last 10 years. There has been an ongoing argument about "literal interpretation" of the Bible. Similar to Episcopalians and Lutherans there is a schism and it is still happening.

The only reason you won't reject that traditional Christian belief is the split would be accelerated and theologically you won't officially part with traditional Christiane doctrine. I suspect those are both important issues for UCC.

You have acknowledged that you don't "need" to reject the idea because UCC employs gays and lesbians. Disney, Microsoft, Google and others have adopted the same "non-discrimination" statements as UCC - it's good for business. LGBT also make great employees.

Instead of simply saying "we do not believe" homosexuality is wrong - just put it in writing. Reject that belief, it isn't hard. Then, you wouldn't have to engage in double-talk and hyperbole.

** For instance, about 80% of the delegates (not 97%) to the General Synod voted to support "consideration" of same-sex marriage. The UCC website states that this resolution: "...marks the first time that one of the nation’s mainline churches has expressed support of marriages for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons." The resolution calls on its congregations to consider wedding policies "that do not discriminate on couples based on gender." They also ask its congregations to support changes in state marriage legislation to give equal rights to same-sex couples.

Perhaps we should hold all Andrews accountable for anything any Andrew has done until they can all get together and issue policy statements that explicitly reject whatever we find objectionable about the actions of any Andrew.

This Andrew clearly doesn't understand what the absence of a hierarchy within a denomination means -- or he doesn't read responses to his posts. And he ignores any explanation that doesn't fit his VERY narrow view of religion.

The congregation that I belong to has been affirming/welcoming/embracing for decades, yet the first "vote" anybody bothered to take was this year.

Does that mean I was just tolerated all this time? Of course not! That's just silly.

If what you are suggesting about UCC is true, they can sign a simple Statement. It's not hard to do. In fact, based on your comments they would be willing to sign it right now. Ask today.

JonathonEdwards | October 9, 2010 10:48 PM

This comment has been deleted for violation of the Terms of Service.

The editorial team in our sole discretion will delete a comment that is abusive, off-topic, LGBT-phobic, or is soliciting and/or advertising.

10% Jonathan. That's less than 90%.

You co-professionals don't know math?

I have no problem with Christians. I have a problem with religious bigotry. In case you haven't noticed it is taking innocent lives of LGBT youth. Or doesn't that count?

If you wish to challenge anything I have said here, bring some facts, not degrees. Show us where UCC has rejected the traditional Christian teaching/belief that homosexuality is wrong. It is a simple statement for them to make. Stop pretending they already have.

David Brian Holt | October 10, 2010 2:16 PM


This is getting REALLY boring. Others have explained to you REPEATEDLY that our church follows a congregational polity and CAN'T make a "simple" statement telling our congregations what they should believe on ANY theological, social, or political issue. It simply CANNOT be done. We are Congregationalists and follow a congregationalist governance. Please do some reading on this topic and understand what it means.

If you want to see where the UCC has "rejected" that "traditional" Christian teaching belief on homosexuality please look at the actions of our congregations. They are overfilled with examples of how they NEVER ascribed to these beliefs and are actively opposed to such an interpretation.

The UCC's roots in New England Congregationalism represent a progressive reform tradition that is the oldest in the United States. Our church was the first denomination to ordain a woman (in the 1840s), an African-American, a openly gay man, and a transgender person.

What you are asking for when you ask for a "simple statement" is something which is in direct contradiction to our 400-year old church governance. We're not going to do it. And not because we don't agree with the statement.

I fully understand how UCC is organized and that's why Emily can't say:

"With my acceptance of this position comes a transfer of my ministerial standing to the UCC, a denomination that welcomes and affirms gays and lesbians."

Like you said, it is up to the individual churches. All the "denomination" can do in "encourage" individual churches. That's what Open and affirming was created for and so far 10% of UCC churches have heeded that "encouragement." That's the math. It's very clear.

To confirm what you have just said:

"If you want to see where the UCC has "rejected" that "traditional" Christian teaching belief on homosexuality please look at the actions of our congregations."

Okay. IF those "local congregations" can reject that traditional teaching, perhaps you can tell us how many have done that? I'm not aware of a single UCC congregation (church) that has formally rejected that teaching/belief. I agree it's a "simple statement" and it should be equally simple simple for individual congregations to acknowledge that.

David Brian Holt | October 10, 2010 2:26 PM

"Again, you're expressing your opinion and intentionally mis-leading people. UCC has lost 300,000 members in the last 10 years. There has been an ongoing argument about "literal interpretation" of the Bible. Similar to Episcopalians and Lutherans there is a schism and it is still happening."

I have to respond to this statement, too. It is simply wrong. The UCC, unlike other mainline protestant denominations, has NOT experienced a significant "schism" such as has happened with others. This is because the UCC has long been known as the "progressive" mainline denomination and also because our congregational polity allows congregations to leave whenever they like.

We haven't lost 300,000 members because of theological issues. You're repeating claims made by right-wing fundamentalists. We have "lost" members because our church demographics heavily include older people. These "lost" members have died, not left the church. That is hardly the same thing.

Please reference facts David.

At the time of its formation, the UCC had over 2 million members in nearly 7,000 churches. The denomination has suffered a 44 percent loss in membership since the mid-1960s. By 1980, membership was at about 1.7 million and by the turn of the century had dropped to 1.3 million. In 2006, the UCC had roughly 1.2 million members in 5,452 churches. According to its 2008 annual report, the United Church of Christ has about 1.1 million members in about 5,300 local congregations. Membership is concentrated primarily in the Northeast and Midwest.

That's from ARDA, not some conservative nuts.

How about those local churches reject the teaching/belief that homosexuals are wrong? How many UCC churches have done that?

A simple Statement. From all the Andrews.
Or you shouldn't call yourself Andrew.

David Brian Holt | October 10, 2010 9:06 PM

OK, last message on this thread.

Andrew, you're trying desperately to prove something from a negative. It has been said repeatedly that because 90% of congregations are not ONA does NOT mean that they hold to a homophobic interpretation of scripture. You are simply assuming that they hold to such a belief. Please provide evidence of UCC congregations holding to a homophobic interpretation. Also, please list which UCC congregations you communicated with in your study.

"I'm not aware of a single UCC congregation (church) that has formally rejected that teaching/belief. I agree it's a "simple statement" and it should be equally simple simple for individual congregations to acknowledge that."

That statement is just ridiculous!! Not a single church, huh? My congregation does and all ONA congregations do. And as has been pointed out an overwhelming majority (80%) of the entire UCC supports marriage equality. You can't possibly believe that churches can perform and bless same-sex marriages but believe homosexuality to be wrong? How can congregations choose LGBT pastors, pay for LGBT ministries, march in gay pride parades, and work for gay rights be considered homophobic? That just doesn't make sense.

And about loss of members of the UCC, yes you are right the church has been in decline since its last merger in the 1950s. It was a church made up of old people even at that time. We simply haven't gained anywhere near the number of new members to replace the people who have died. This doesn't suggest theological "schisms".

Here is the latest TV ad from the UCC. Does this really look like a denomination which believes homosexuality to be wrong?

So, despite your assertions, no individual UCC-affiliated church has made a formal declaration that "homosexuality is NOT wrong?" Not even one? What's the problem? You said they did and would - let's get started.

AndrewW- Just curious, what is it you do with your life besides comment on sites like this? (and your study) What do you do for a living? I have never seen someone who has so much time to write over and over. It is almost as if that is what gets you off, so to speak. I wish you would do something more productive but being this way really seems to be your focus in life. Sad, just plain sad in my opinion. Someone with this much passion could be so helpful.

Rann isn't the one pretending to be the grand messiah who has the answers to all our problems in this "study" that you have spent millions on yet have not shown one ounce of proof on it. I think the burden of proof is on you.

Why do you keep saying "study? Heather Cronk used to say the same thing, but she disappeared.

This thread is about UCC and gay-friendly churches/denominations.

Whatever you'd like to call it. Again you are just dodging the fact that you have not shown one ounce of proof about your research. It actually has become quite laughable in a pathetic sort of way. Again as I have said many times before you insist on proof from others but when anyone pushes you for proof you either ignore their request or give the normal 'unwashed masses" aren't ready to hear about your wonderful research. Frankly it's hypocritical. Stop playing the messiah and show some shed of proof about your research. Put up or shut up.

Since you insist on changing the subject, I'll answer your question again. It will be shared when it is complete.

Maybe you recall GetEQUAL was dancing in the streets and heckling the President before they crated a strategy or even enrolled a Board of Directors.

This is about winning and I'm not going to jeopardize that. If you have a plan to actually win - share it. GetEQUAL, HRC, GLAAD, the Task Force and everyone else making a living off the movement have admitted THEY don't have one. I'll share mine when it is complete. I don't make bad investments.

David Brian Holt | October 11, 2010 4:00 PM

You are getting SO annoying. No UCC congregation or body will make formal declarations that require their members to adhere to any theological perspective. What you are asking is for the UCC to abandon its religious tradition. Not going to happen. Please don't attend one our congregations. :)

So, that's a "no," they won't formally reject the traditional teaching/belief that "homosexuality is wrong." That's just like Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Baptists and all the other Christians.

Stop saying UCC is anything more than "gay-friendly" until a congregation will make that important statement. It's a simple statement.

That's right. It's a big fat "No". No, we don't make any statement requiring theological, political, social, or scientific beliefs among our members. We don't believe in creeds nor coercion. So, you're right, it's a big fat NO. Not going to happen. Now or ever. Happy?

Just "acceptance" and "tolerance?" Got it.

Maybe someday. I was betting on the Lutherans anyway.

David Brian Holt | October 11, 2010 7:13 PM

Good luck with that! The most progressive Lutheran denomination, the ELCA, started ordaining LGBT people last year. So they're only about 40 years behind the UCC. ;)

The ELCA has been working on a formal statement. They understand how important it is. They haven't tried to make believe it isn't necessary or that they've "already kinda done that."

Soon, some Christians will have the courage to stand up and reject the teaching/belief that is killing innocent LGBT children.

David Brian Holt | October 12, 2010 2:11 PM

Here is a great video of the work the UCC and the Unitarians are doing together in the "It Gets Better" project:

That's good.

It would have been great if one of them said "there is nothing wrong with homosexuality."

Is that still asking too much?

David Brian Holt | October 12, 2010 5:32 PM

I so don't want to continue this conversation.

Yes, Andrew, MANY, MANY UCC pastors have made that statement. Nearly 800 congregations have explicitly made that statement. The national church has made that statement. The vast majority of conferences have made that statement. Apparently none of this is good enough for you.

As was pointed out earlier, the UCC has the same percentage of congregations participating in a welcoming campaign for LGBT people as the Unitarians. If your claims about the UCC are true, then they are true for the Unitarians as well. I encourage you to claim that Unitarians are a conservative homophobic denomination. Good luck with that.

Of course you don't want the conversation to continue because you know they haven't made that statement and they won't.

Please provide a link to anyone at UCC saying "homosexuality is not wrong, sinful or deviant."

It is a very simple statement. Surely someone at UCC is willing to put it in writing.

Unitarian Universalists are NOT Christians - they are BYOB - Bring you own beliefs. They don't have to reject a traditional Christian belief, UCC does.

David Brian Holt | October 13, 2010 2:51 PM

That makes NO sense. The UCC has NEVER ascribed to traditional Christian belief. Find me ONE example of a UCC minister supporting the belief that homosexuality is wrong. Just ONE example.

And Unitarians are our sister denomination. They are the other half of our religious tradition that split in the 19th century. Calling them "BYOB" is offensive, but I'm sure you know that.

David Brian Holt | October 13, 2010 2:57 PM

Just to highlight the fact the UCC is not "traditional" (as that term has been defined by fundamentalists), in my congregation we have a number of Buddhists, atheists, and Jews. Our congregation is about 20% LBGT. Our choir director is Sufi Muslim. Our Sunday school teacher is lesbian and we are sponsoring two seminary students - one who is a lesbian who grew up Jewish, and the other a transman who grew up in a historically black church.

Does that sound like a traditional church to you? ;)

It is an indisputable fact that the teaching/belief that "homosexuality is wrong" is a "traditional Christian belief." Sure, many more liberal or progressive Christian don't believe that in their hearts, but they've never formally rejected it. I know why they haven't - do you?

Have a look at Dan Savage's latest:

Unitarians believe everything and nothing. They're not Christians. I think they have a very healthy approach to religion.

I guess you couldn't find a homophobic statement from a UCC minister/church that expresses this "traditional" belief. That doesn't surprise me.

And no, Unitarians don't "believe everything and nothing". They follow the seven principles. The Unitarians I know would find your statement to be offensive.

David Brian Holt | October 13, 2010 8:37 PM


I loved the comments in that Dan Savage column. Did you really read them? It had some great things to say about the UCC. :)

Defending a denomination that hasn't officially ended the traditional Christian teaching/belief that "homosexuality is wrong" is just "spin." Good marketing spin.

We don't need "gay friendly," we need life-saving courage. Let me know when somebody at UCC finds some.

David Brian Holt | October 14, 2010 12:51 PM

You still haven't provided ANY evidence that a UCC congregation support this "traditional" belief. I'm still waiting.

And the UCC has been extraordinarily courageous in promoting gay rights and proclaiming that homophobia is a sin. They were promoting gay rights before the APA removed homosexuality from the DSM. That means that they were ahead of even secularists.

No other Christian denomination has done more to proclaim that homosexuality is not a sin. Apparently you want a personal letter from the church addressed to you that states this. As I explained earlier, it would be equally forbidden for the church to mandate a literal interpretation of scripture to its members or to mandate a liberal perspective. Both would be in violation of church polity.

UCC has "proclaimed that homosexuality is not a sin?" Where? Is it in writing?

Enough already. If they want to say "homosexuality is not wrong" it's incredibly easy to put that in writing. Ask them to. I have. See what they tell you.

David Brian Holt | October 15, 2010 3:23 PM

Who would like me to ask? My lesbian minister, my lesbian conference minister, our transgendered seminary students, or our gay male moderator? :)

That's enough David. Find someone, anyone at UCC that will sign a very simple Statement:

"Homosexuality is not wrong, sinful or deviant."

Maybe a Janitor will. That would be a start.

UCC can be the friendliest church in the land, but until they stop (officially) making homosexuality wring - it's just marketing. Marketing isn't enough. We want equality.

David Brian Holt | October 16, 2010 12:12 AM

You know very well that the church CAN'T mandate theological perspectives. If you want someone from the church to express their personal opinion, here is a statement from the President of the UCC, John Thomas. He's a little higher up than a janitor. ;)

"But is a commitment to life long fidelity by two persons sin simply
because they not only share love, but also their gender? Can we not see that same gender couples who enter into the covenants of marriage are bearing witness to fidelity, not “living in sin.”"

Is that fucking clear enough for you? Or should I have him write a personal letter?

Since UCC is "unable" to make that simple (and very clear) Statement, then some members think we're wrong and some don't.

Will you be polling them? Catholics are 50/50. I hope UCC does better than that.

David Brian Holt | October 16, 2010 1:16 PM

Yes, Andrew, you are absolutely correct when you state that the UCC is unable to make that statement. It is contrary to our congregationalist polity. The church couldn't make a statement saying that homosexuality is wrong either.

Individuals, including ministers, can express their personal opinion. But the UCC can NEVER express a theological viewpoint.

And you HONESTLY believe that members of the UCC are about as progressive as the Catholic church or the ELCA? That is just so absurd I don't know how to respond to it. Normally, people refer to UCC members as "Unitarians Considering Christ". You are the first person I have ever encountered that believes the UCC to be conservative and/or homophobic. People familiar with mainline Christianity recognize that the UCC is clearly the most progressive denomination in the United States that has a very long history of fighting against homophobia and supporting gay causes.

So, they've never said either way - officially. If individual Congregations can, let's get that started.

Catholics have been "polled." Should we poll UCC members with the "right or wrong" question? Or do you need a little time to send that Declaration around? We can wait, but I think it's important to resolve this asap.


David Brian Holt | October 16, 2010 2:51 PM

Well, I suppose one "poll" that has already taken place are the votes taken during the General Synod. In 2005, 80% of delegates voted for marriage equality. That is significantly higher than the population at large and much higher than any other denomination.

Polls among UCC pastors have indicated that they are the most progressive of any denomination:

At my congregation, our church was the headquarters for the county's "No on Prop. 8" campaign. My congregation also started the local Queer Youth Awards to recognize accomplishments among local LGBT youth. Our minister has written numerous op-ed articles on marriage equality and has performed marriage ceremonies for over 300 same-sex couples.

I really can't imagine that anyone associated with the UCC would believe that any of our members hold to a belief that homosexuality is wrong.

Gee David, you're getting way too thin.


UCC believers are "Christians."

Emily, this thread has become somewhat de-railed. You ended it by saying ...."But I am deeply frustrated with those who believe that inclusion of gays and lesbians is right, but who tell us to wait for justice. Their lack of urgency comes from living in a privileged comfort that gay Presbyterians have never known. Like Dr. King said, I will remember their silence. And so will that idealistic 21 year old who entered seminary all those years ago."

Please allow me to provide some rather eclectic focus which might be valuable in your quest. If they do not strike a harmonic resonance then discard them.

Let us begin with the word of God. You can find it in John 1:1-5. I read those verses frequently. They are invaluable when you encounter someone who purports that the Bible is the word of God. Read those verses and keep them close to your heart.

Then school yourself on the many things that the Bible says are an abomination. There are many. You will never encounter any human being that escapes all the categories. Learn these. You can find them on the web and offer the appropriate one to any person who cites homosexuality as an abomination. Please remember however that the use of that knowledge is not to condemn others but to simply elevate introspection as Jesus did when he stated "let the one without sin cast the first stone".

More in an eclectic collage. You will not find any Prophet in the Bible who lacked the ability to heal. I am not speaking of the hokey modern day televangelists who fake it but rather true channeling of the healing energy of God's love. Now tie that together with the admonition against taking God's name in vain and understand that anyone who asserts the authority of God but cannot open the eyes of a blind person is a liar. This is not rocket science. By their works you shall know them. Those who claim God's authority without the ability to heal infirmities are not speaking truth. They are false prophets.

If what I have texted thus far seems irrelevant please pardon me for distracting you. It is not my purpose to cloud your thoughts but simply to assist others to have life and have it more abundantly. John 10:10.

* The UCC "Delagates" are not the "members." The "Pastors" are not the membership, either.

What's troubling is that less than 10% of UCC churches are "open and affirming" 90% are not.

A poll of members would be helpful. Perhaps you could do that while you are searching for those Pastors that will formally say that "homosexuality is not wrong, sinful or deviant." I'd prefer those numbers to your "imagination."

Let's find out - okay?

David Brian Holt | October 16, 2010 10:13 PM

I honestly can't find any polls of UCC membership itself. I've searched but couldn't find anything.

The delegates are, however, both members of the church and representatives of their congregations. They are voting on behalf of the congregations they represent. There is nothing to suggest that the delegates chosen by congregations are more progressive than their fellow congregants.

Pastors are, admittedly, more progressive than their membership. This has much to do with how progressive UCC seminaries are. As I mentioned earlier, UCC seminaries tend to be hotbeds of progressive theology. Many of the queer, and trans, theology programs are located at UCC seminaries.

David Brian Holt | October 17, 2010 1:39 AM

Here, I did find some membership data from ARDA. I should note that this study is based on data that is a few years old and the data skews to a rather older demographic. The average age of respondents was in the 70s. That probably just means that older people are more likely to fill out surveys. :)

Thank-you for searching David. The "Good News" is that polling (including denomination) is going on now on a State-by-State basis. I'll make sure you receive the results.

In all fairness, I would be willing to bet that UCC is probably the gay-friendliest of Christian denominations.

Now if we could just get a formal or official statement that ....